John Collington is the new UK Government Chief Procurement Officer

As we disclosed yesterday, John Collington, the Highland Hero, joint favourite in our betting, and the front-runner for most of the race, came through to win the great UK Government CPO stakes. As the Cabinet Office statement says:

As Chief Procurement Officer, he will be responsible for the delivery of more efficient procurement across Government and improving procurement capability. In addition to his existing responsibilities, he will take on responsibility for the transformation and operational delivery of the Government’s procurement agency, Buying Solutions.

I believe that he also has responsibility for procurement policy, although that isn't mentioned in the announcement.

As we said back at the competitive stage, there were 3 or 4 strong runners, and it was anyone's race till the final fence.  Unlike the Grand National, there were no fatalities (not that we've heard of anyway), and while there must be some jokes to be made about oats and carrots, I'm certainly not going to be making them.

And there was a twist in the tail;

David Smith, Commercial Director at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), will additionally take on the role of Deputy Chief Procurement Officer for Government. David will take on the role alongside his current responsibilities at DWP.

Smith was our other joint favourite of course ("Guitar Man"); but we didn't expect a deputy role to be announced as well as the CPO and we'll come back to that point later - he is also one of the newly appointed 'Crown Commercial Representatives".

Anyway, congratulations to Collington, who spent 20 years in the private sector, chiefly as a senior exec with Accenture, before moving into Government in 2007, and who now becomes the most senior individual in UK public sector procurement. He has the benefit of the new Crown Commercial Representatives infrastructure, announced last week, (although I don't think they report to him), and some highly capable people who do report to him directly like David Shields and Sally Collier - and others within their organisations.

The announcement says: "The role merges two existing positions of Head of Procurement in the Cabinet Office and Chief Executive of Buying Solutions, with a consequent saving to the taxpayer". So it would appear that there won't be a separate CEO for Buying Solutions. However, there may well be a COO or simialr, as I doubt whether Collington will  want to spend too much time on day-to-day management issues in Liverpool and Norwich.

And despite the strong supporting cast, there will be a lot of focus on Collington personally; to be the ambassadorial face of public procurement (which he'll certainly do well); to deliver innovation, support to SMEs and all those wonderful 'policy through procurement' initiatives; and perhaps most of all, to demonstrate that the centralising procurement across key Whitehall categories is delivering real savings (that the National Audit Office can verify, and Labour can't rubbish in three years time).

Collington is smart, focused, energetic, very experienced in a wide range of procurement issues, processes and strategies, understands technology, has had long enough in Whitehall to know his way around, and clearly has the confidence of his boss, Ian Watmore, and, I suspect, the Minister. We won't wish him luck, as luck has very little to do with it. But, like any taxpayer, we will wish him every success as he looks to lead the contribution procurement can make to getting the economy back on its feet. And, of course, to demonstrate to the PM that public procurement people aren't 'enemies of enterprise'.

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  1. Rob:

    They seem to have gone for ‘best of breed’ – building upon the track record of Mr Collington since his secondment to ERG in September, and David’s 30 year experience in deftly navigating his way around Whitehall (and Ministers). David will be a great mentor for the new CPO.

    I’m glad that ‘Guitar Man’ is a key member of the leadership team. This leadership will be very important in shaping and driving these programmes forward.

    Here’s one example of this. In the DWP, a high profile procurement programme was two years into its develpment, reaching the point where the OJEU had been published. (The prime objective was to secure savings of approx £7m against a £90m per annum spend in this specific category.) I am told that David shaped and pursued an alternative approach, which would not only address the original category but a significant range of other relevant categories (a creative solution with a focus upon stripping out the costs associated with in-bound logistics) – establishing a new prime objective of securing savings of approx £40m against an annual spend of £260m. A significant step-change. It would require stopping the original high profile procurement (which had been running for two years) and retracting the OJEU. Which he did.

    I genuinely don’t know of any other Commercial Director who has demonstrated such ballsy leadership in stopping their own existing procurement (especially at that stage) in order to pursue an alternative outcome, can you?

    You have to admire the CPO/Dep CPO model that they’ve adopted.

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